André Greipel took his first win of the 2013 Tour de France in Montpellier this afternoon as Mark Cavendish had to settle for fourth-place following a mid-stage crash.
Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) got the better of points classification leader Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) in the slightly uphill sprint for the finish line to add to his career tally of four stage wins in the race.
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Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) finished five seconds ahead of team-mate and overnight race leader Simon Gerrans after a small split in the sprint for the line to become the first African rider to take the maillot jaune.
That this split was the most notable of the day was somewhat surprising, given that strong crosswinds hindered the riders for the middle part of the stage as they travelled parallel with the Camargue.
Even so, the peloton stayed intact throughout and never looked like fragmenting as it did on nearby stages in the 2007 and 2009 Tour.
Of the top-20 hopefuls, only Janez Brajkovic (Astana) and Rein Taarame (Cofidis) had days to forget. Brajkovic crashed around 12km to go and lost several minutes, while the Estonian was dropped by the peloton on the outskirts of Montpellier.
Cavendish fell on his left-hand side just under 35 kilometres from the line, suffering with visible cuts and scrapes.
His team-mate Sylvain Chavanel helped slow the pace at the front of the peloton, and yesterday’s stage winner was able to rejoin the peloton.
How much the fall and the chase took out of him remains to be seen, but it appeared that the Manxman also had to start his sprint in fifth wheel, hardly ideal against the big names of the sprinting fraternity.
Despite initially closing the gap to Greipel, he could not pass the German and fell behind Sagan and Kittel as he eased up in the closing metres.
Nonetheless, Cavendish should have another chance to fight for his 25th Tour stage victory in Albi tomorrow afternoon.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was another rider to take a spill during the stage. He quickly remounted, and got back in touch with the bunch.
Greipel’s victory comes on a day that Lotto-Belisol lost its overall contender, Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), to a knee injury. The Belgian was a non-starter.
Tomorrow the riders tackle a medium mountains stage from Montpellier to Albi that features four categorised climbs. Full stage seven preview >>
Tour de France 2013, stage six: Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier, 176.5km
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos-Shimano
4. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
7. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
8. Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
9. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag23-La Mondiale
18. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 0-05
Overall classification after stage six
1. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge in 22-18-17
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 3 sec
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 0-05
4. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 0-06
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at st
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 0-08
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky at st
9. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff at 0-14
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at st
Andre Greipel wins the stage